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Omar Sosa & Yilian Cañizares

2020 Biamp PDX Jazz Festival presents Omar Sosa & Yilian Cañizares: Aguas Trio featuring Gustavo Ovalles

February 24, 2020 | 7:30 pm

- $25
The Old Church

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In October 2018, Omar Sosa and violinist-vocalist Yilian Cañizares released Aguas, a very beautiful and personal album. Featuring their compatriot, percussionist Inor Sotolongo, Aguas reflects the perspectives of two generations of Cuban artists living outside their homeland, interpreting their roots and traditions in subtle and unique ways.  Songs range from the poignant to the exuberant, and are expressive of the exceptional musical chemistry, poetic sensibilities, and originality of the artists.

The material on Aguas is an inventive and engaging mix of the artists’ Afro-Cuban roots, Western classical music, and jazz. The album is dedicated to Water, and especially to Oshun, the Goddess of Love and Mistress of Rivers in the Lucumí tradition of Yoruba ancestry known in Cuba as Santería — a spiritual practice important to both artists. As water is synonymous with life, and energy, and strength, and space, the music of the album is inspired by the important influences of water — its hidden powers, its infinite transmutations, and its relentless creation. There is a sense, as well, for Omar and Yilian, of how water represents both separation from, and nostalgia for, the land of their birth.


Composer-pianist-bandleader Omar Sosa is one of the most versatile jazz artists on the scene today.  His musical trajectory traces the Diaspora from Cuba to Africa and Brazil; from Central America to Ecuador’s African-descent communities; from San Francisco and New York to his current home base in Barcelona. True to his Afro-Cuban origins, Sosa fashions a spirited vision of uncompromising artistic generosity that embraces humanity at large.  Nominated for six Grammy awards and twice for the BBC World Music Awards, Sosa entwines the expressive traditions of Africa and the Americas in a unique cosmopolitan voice, articulating a brilliant, joyous, and thoroughly contemporary global jazz idiom.

Omar Sosa fuses a wide range of jazz, world music, and electronic elements with his native Afro-Cuban roots to create a fresh and original urban sound – all with a Latin jazz heart.  His career embodies the expansive outlook of a visionary artist who has taken Monk’s uncompromising spirit to heart, while working ceaselessly to craft and project a unique voice.

Mr. Sosa received a lifetime achievement award from the Smithsonian Associates in Washington, DC in 2003 for his contribution to the development of Latin jazz in the United States.


Before she picks up her violin and walks onstage, Yilian Cañizares pays homage to her ancestors. Candles are lit. Prayers are said, and offerings made. Then as the houselights dim and her group of crack musicians file on before her, she’ll lean down and touch the floor as she enters.

“This always puts me fully in the moment,” says the vivacious Cuban singer and instrumentalist. “It allows the music and the ancestors to flow through me, to reach people even if they don’t speak my language. I go into a trance when I perform live,” she adds with a grin. “It is like a religious experience.”

All those who have marvelled at her fiery blend of jazz, classical and Afro-Cuban rhythms, who’ve got goosebumps from her otherworldly voice, will testify to feeling transformed. Whether onstage or on record there are few artists as impressively talented as Cañizares, a Havana-born, Swiss-based thirtysomething with a respect for the past and a feel for the future.

Two acclaimed albums, 2013’s self-produced Ochumare and 2015’s Invocación, helmed by Alê Siqueira (Roberto Fonseca, Omara Portuondo) have strengthened Cañizares’ reputation as a trailblazer and boundary crosser por excelencia. Not for nothing was she declared ‘revelation of the year’ by French weekly Le Novel Observateur: with her charisma, tapestry of influences and the ease with which she sings and plays violin simultaneously, Cañizares is a bona fide discovery.

“My sound reflects the richness and mixture of cultures that I carry with me today,” she says in her fluent, accented English. “It is who I am: a woman. A Cuban. A musician. A citizen of the world.”